VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: A Revolution in Four Seasons

By Emily Bignell
Tunisia/USA

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This inspirational film traces the struggle for democracy, activism, and self-sacrifice for the sake of revolution.

For those who don’t know,  The Arab Spring was a revolutionary wave of both violent and nonviolent protests, riots, coups and civil wars beginning with the Tunisian revolution. A major slogan of the demonstrators in the Arab world is “the people want to bring down the regime”. Many demonstrations were met with violent retaliations from authorities, as well as from pro-government militias and counter-demonstrators. These attacks were answered back with violence from protesters in some cases, continuing the vicious cycle of conflict.

A Revolution in Four Seasons follows two women with opposing political views as they fight for different versions of an ideal political future in Tunisia. Over the course of Tunisia’s critical post-revolution years, Emna Ben Jemaa, works towards a country governed by free speech and dreams of dismantling corruption of the former regime. In contrast, Jawhara Ettis of the Islamist party Ennahda works towards a Tunisia guided by traditional Islamic principles.

On a public level, both women must navigate how women are treated in their society. Through the journey, they must make difficult choices to balance their public, political roles with marriage and motherhood. As for anyone involved in the political world,  the threat of extremists means that all they are working towards is teetering on the brink of break down and all they’ve worked for could be lost. This timely and insightful documentary traces their paths from public figures in the Arab Spring to opponents in its wake, and the common obstacles they face as outspoken women.

Post Tunisian involvement many large-scale conflicts resulted including the Syrian Civil War. There was an ongoing power struggle after the Tunisian Revolution/Arab Spring. While leadership changed and regimes were dismantled, power then was offered up to another potentially corrupt leader across the Arab world essentially coming down to a contentious battle between the consolidation of power by religious elites, and the growing support for democracy in many Muslim-majority states. As of July 2016, only the uprising in Tunisia resulted in a transition to constitutional democratic governance.

Director Jessie Deeter from California, is a Berkeley Masters graduate in journalism specializing in the Middle East and Africa. After grad Deeter produced stories for Frontline and Al Jazeera, and then moved on to become a Fulbright scholar in Oman, Morocco and Tunisia where she began A Revolution in Four Seasons.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: A Trip Along Exodus

By Emily Bignell
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The multimedia, political memoir A Trip Along Exodus takes a heartfelt and intimate dive into the last 70 years of Palestinian politics. Looking at the hope for peace, love, heartbreak and loss, Director Hind Shoufani tackles one of the most difficult topics of this generation from a personal, poetic approach, all through the lens of her father’s life. Her father, Dr. Elias Shoufani, was the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and an academic leftist. Born in Ma’liya in the Galilee and educated at the Hebrew University as well as Princeton, the multilingual and erudite Dr. Shoufani was also the Arab world’s leading analyst of Israeli affairs for more than a generation.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is the unresolved struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century. It is one of the modern world’s longest standing, irreversible, conflicts in history. The war is wide-ranging but one of the persisting issues at the core is between the Jewish yishuv and the Arab population under British rule. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has been powering on for 50 years despite scattered intervention, peacekeeping missions, and cease-fires.

In many ways, the film is a conversation between father and daughter – an open-ended discussion about what peace looks like in the Arab world. Though Hind takes a more feminist approach to her journey to peace for the Arab world, her father held very similar value at the core and was extremely progressive for the time. The result is a touching though complicated take on intergenerational discourse and peace in complicated times.

Director Hind Shoufani from Lebanon, lives between Dubai and Beirut, in the Middle East. She is a poet, director and producer. Born from Palestinian activist parents, her father having graduated from Princeton became the leader of the PLO, Shoufani received her masters of filmmaking and directing at NYU from Tisch school for the Arts. Her main focuses are on freedom of Arab people and transnational feminism.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: Anishoara

By Emily Bignell

Moldova/Germany
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Anishoara is a fairy tale-like love story, coming of age hybrid, set against the changing of the seasons in breathtaking Moldova.

Minimal dialogue and simple landscapes stand in stunning contrast to the character’s busy relationships. Anishoara, is a 15-year-old girl from a small village. Outwardly, her life is calm, and of a dreamy aesthetic concealing the archaic feelings within. Alone with her old grandfather and her little brother, we follow Anishoara through the seasons as she falls in love with different parts of the earth. The melon harvest, the sea, and, eventually, a man.     

A must-see for foreign film fanatics, travel bugs, and anyone who is feeling nostalgic for summer days and young love.

Director Ana Felicia Scutelnicu from Moldova, graduated from German Film and TV Academy and went on to live in Benin, West Africa, before returning to Moldova to pursue her career in film and directing further.

 

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlights: “Shorts Programme 2: Relationships Under Pressure”

By Emily Bignell

shorts 2 Stalingrado 6With the world being what it is, it can be hard to remain compassionate.

Sometimes, the society we live in, the beliefs we have, or the stress we are facing amount to conflict – with strangers, friends, and the unknown. They put our relationships, in every sense of the word, under pressure.

The films from Shorts Block 2: Relationships Under Pressure reminds us of all the different ways that stress, prejudice and contrasting beliefs can create unintended consequences.

  • Aftermath (Germany) looks at the fight for everyday survival, the natural course of action and reaction and eventually takes a violent turn. A friendship evolves from this difficult and unusual circumstance but only lasts a moment before an unwavering grudge interferes.
  • Stalingrado (Spain) explores an Oedipal relationship, and the role it plays in the son’s relationship with another woman. A jealous mother becomes aggravated at her son and lover’s other woman.
  • The Patriot (UK) illustrates the simmering racial tensions within a young girl’s rural English community. The story follows a rollercoaster of tolerance and playfulness taking a quick 360 to tension and violence on the basis of class and race.
  • The Things We Do They Don’t Understand (USA) is a cinematically simple, heartfelt film that follows a girl who wakes up after a one-night stand, and finds herself alone with the man’s mother. The mother only speaks Spanish, and with the language barrier the two women have an emotional breakfast together, finding a way to communicate with each other, both verbally and emotionally.
  • Here Nor There (BC) begins with a mysterious meeting in an underground parking lot. A funeral for a woman who has been missing for years and a private investigator who discovered her body bring light to infidelity, intimacy, trauma mystery and the unique ways that people deal with loss and love. Nothing is as it seems in the face of personal tragedy.
  • On the Beach (Germany) is about the holidays at the sea in Northern Germany. A woman is bored and invents a game where she pretends to be blind, and her partner plays along. The game leads to a deep hole of lies and reveals the emptiness of their relationship.

If dark and sad isn’t your style, check out Shorts Block 5: The Lighter Side of Change, for films by local comedians as they tackle comedy in unique and endearing ways. If your doom-and-gloom quotient hasn’t yet been met, or if you’re looking for a new reflection point on conflict, this shorts programme is for you.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlights: Breath

By Emily Bignell
Iran

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Director Narges Abyar from Tehran is an author, screenwriter and film director with over 30 pieces published ranging from children’s stories to novels and political pieces – and it all comes together in Breath.

Abyar’s background is well-served by the cinematography of Breath, which captures the beauty of both peace and chaos as it follows the daily routine of an imaginative young girl.

Bahar’s story eloquently incorporates the beauty of literature and how she uses it to explore and interpret her life amidst the tumult of revolution and war in Iran.

Using animation and still pictures, Breath gives us a front row seat to the imagination and dreams of a child living the realities conflict.

By embracing her reality through self-directed studies and reading, Bahar escapes the day-to-day life in Iran, taking her existence from tolerable to near-enjoyable.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: Unveiled: The Kohistan Video Scandal

By Emily Bignell
Pakistan/BC

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Trigger Warning: Violence, Sexism

Vancouver-based director and producer Brikshay Ahmed originally from Afghanistan started in journalism and then moved on to bring light to similar topics instead through film and is also a member of WIFTV.

The worlds of investigative journalism and documentary filmmaking collide in her latest project, of blurred public and private spheres in Unveiled.

When four girls go missing after a video of them clapping and singing in public “illegally” goes viral in their small, remote village in the Kohistan region of Northern Pakistan, their families and community suspects the tribal council is behind the disappearance.

Cell-phone and professionally shot footage combines to tell the story of a fight for justice – fuelled by a dedicated community and media outrage, but ultimately silenced by the slow pace of progress.

Today, Pakistan more than 1,000 women and girls murdered in honor killings every year. Though many areas are making progress towards recognition of women’s rights, smaller villages continue to ingrain the patriarchy into the core of the culture. ( http://hbv-awareness.com/)

Join us at the festival for a FREE screening of Unveiled featuring a Q&A with the director. (Link)

Vancouver International Women in Film Screenplay Competition announces 2017 Official Selections

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VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition founder Michelle Muldoon and jurist Bill Hurst at the 2016 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival.

By Joan Macbeth

The starting point for every great film is a well-written script. The VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition, in its third year, welcomed screenplays from women writers all over the world. Judging was based on a number of criteria, including story composition, scene construction, set-up and pay-off, imagery, character development, formatting, dialogue, and originality. Thanks to our esteemed jury for volunteering their time: Angela Crosato, Mia Divac, Sasha Duncan, Bill Hurst, Dee LeBlanc, Jenny Siddle and Kelly Tatham.

The philosophy of the competition is to replicate a professional experience for the writers, as much as possible. When submitting a script to producers, managers or agents, many times a writer’s success is based on the first few pages of the script. We allow up to 30 pages for the initial read, plus a synopsis, for the jury to decide if the script should advance to the second round. All of our judges are professional story analysts, with the same type of training you might find in the industry “gatekeepers” who make the initial decision on whose screenplays will move up the ladder. For the more advanced screenwriter, our objective is to garner for them industry attention and recognition for excellent writing.

Congratulations to our Official Selections!

Amanda Darling – Mary: The Trials and Tribulations of an Unwed Pregnant Teen in The Ancient World

Ana de Lara – The Virgin Mary Had a Little Lamb

Clara Dollar – Patients

Annie Frazier Henry – Footprints In Blood

Elizabeth Indianos – Libertaire

Alix Joyce – Kill Me

Anita Reilly McGee – Mammy

Lily Mercer – My Old Man

Kristine Stephenson – Flightless

Megan Turner – Amaranthine

For the ten Official Selections, WIFTV provides a prize package that includes a festival pass to VIWIFF 2017, and an opportunity to attend pitch meetings offered during the festival. For the top three finalists, to be announced just before the festival, additional prizes include a downloadable copy of Final Draft software, and an InkTip listing. The first place Grand Prize Winner receives a cash prize of $250.

Special thanks to our sponsors:

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What life looks like a year later for one of last year’s From Our Dark Side winners

darkside-websitejpgBy Brianna Girdler & Michaela Montaner

About this time of year, women writers from across Canada are getting wind of From Our Dark Side, a national English language contest coordinated by WIFTV, and deciding whether or not to submit (or resubmit!) their three-to-five page genre film outline to the competition. In 2015, Elisabeth de Mariaffi was one such person, contemplating and polishing her submission.

Fast forward to 2016, and you’ll probably agree it’s a good thing she did.

From Our Dark Side winners – there are five – join an intensive incubator program designed to support women writers in/approaching the genre market and get their idea for a feature length project to the next stage. Winners also attend workshops at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (hosted by WIFTV) and receive a transportation subsidy to the Frontières Genre Co-Production Market in Montreal. In both instances, they are set up with potential producers and buyers to receive feedback on their projects.

For Elisabeth, one of five winners from the 2016 competition, the incubator experience was just the beginning. Since winning, her From Our Dark Side submission, Fly Girls, has been optioned, and what was just a three-to-five page outline this time last year, today, is on its way to a screen near you.

As we eagerly anticipate WIFTV member and supporter submissions and resubmissions, our own Brianna Girdler caught up with Elisabeth to hear more about how things have been going since she won “FODS 2016”, and with Rupert Harvey, a From Our Dark Side mentor, and the producer who went on to option Elisabeth’s script.

Elisabeth on life since winning FODS 2016

 

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Elisabeth de Mariaffi, one of the five winners of the 2016 From Our Dark Side genre concept competition.

How do you feel about having your script optioned?

 

I’m thrilled. I’m really new to script writing and this has been a real vote of confidence. The idea itself was something I’d been kicking around in the back of my head for a long time, but I guess I felt unsure about jumping into a genre project — and especially one that feels, at least to me as a literary novelist, *really* genre, a feminist vampire movie that pits a bunch of flight attendant trainees against the vamps at an isolated airport. So obviously it feels great to get this early support for the idea and for me as a writer.

How will the option impact the project and your career?

It moves the project way up on my priority list — it’s now on my personal work schedule for early 2017 and I do find that it’s really helped me open up my thinking about other projects I might like to dream up or take on. I’m more likely to give myself permission to spend time with ideas that seem outlandish and I also find that now, when I think of a story idea, I really think about what might be the best way to tell it: is it short story, is it a novel, is it a film? That’s exciting and fun.

How did the option come about?

Part of the FODS mentorship win was a trip out to Vancouver for VIWIFF — while there, I was lucky enough to meet and talk to a lot of industry insiders, working in all facets of movie making and promotions. I live about as far away from Vancouver as you possibly can, while staying within Canada: St. John’s, Newfoundland. So I figured, if I was out there, I’d make the most of it and try and meet up with as many people as I could. That kind of thinking resulted in some great conversations, and one of those conversations was with the producer who has since optioned Fly Girls.

Now that it’s optioned, what’s next for Fly Girls?

Now comes the hard part: I write the screenplay. I’m just trying to clue up a few other pre-existing projects, and will be moving on to the Fly Girls script early in the new year.

What’s your next project? Will you continue to work in genre?

Well, currently I’m juggling two projects. One of those is the screen adaptation of my novel, The Devil You Know, which is a thriller about a rookie news reporter investigating the cold case murder of her childhood best friend. The other is a brand-new novel — so brand new, it hasn’t been announced, so I can’t tell you too much about it, but I can say it’s a kind of ghost story, set in 1950s upstate New York. So I guess both of those lean to genre, anyway, but absolutely, I wouldn’t rule out working in genre in future, in any medium.

You primarily write fiction. How did you find the screenwriting experience?

It’s a fascinating change. My way of approaching fiction, in first draft, is really gestural: it’s largely about voice and tone and atmosphere. I find that my approach to screenwriting has been way more disciplined and organized: outline! beat sheet! treatment! I’ve never written an outline for a novel. I wonder, though, if I will now that I see how it’s done?

Rupert Harvey, on judging, then optioning Elisabeth’s submission

Rupert Harvey is a producer and writer, best known for Pump Up the Volume, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, The Blob, and Critters. He has been working with WIFTV since 2014 as a From Our Dark Side mentor. In 2016, Rupert also participated in the competition jury that ultimately recognized Elisabeth’s submission as one of the top 5 pieces. Here’s what he had to share with Brianna about Elisabeth’s work and his impressions of whether we are approaching gender parity in the industry, genre and otherwise.

How were you first introduced to Fly Girls?

Through Women in Film and Television Vancouver. It was one of the finalists last year and it was one of the ones I particularly liked and thought it had the most potential out of everything I read. I was on the panel and it jumped out at me.

What interested you about it?

The fact that it’s a combination of several different elements sitting on top of a fairly standard, classic format. First on the list is that it was funny, as well as being scary – well, potentially funny. That came through in the one-pager that I initially read. And it was a female protagonist. It was about a group of women under attack and triumphing over evil. It was within an environment that represents so much of the old world attitude towards women. It was a good opportunity to juxtapose some contemporary sensibilities with the tropes of a group of flight attendants. It’s not contemporary, so it offsets that classic world of flight attendants coming from the age of Playboy Magazine and TWA and Pan American Airlines. The hero is a very contemporary character and is set against this slightly distant world of classic anti-feminism – if that’s not too strong a word.

What are your plans for moving forward with the project?

Elisabeth is going to write the first draft of the script. We have a rough date for her to start working on the screenplay in February/March. I would hope we’ll have a draft by the summer, with which we can start developing some of the commercial attributes of the production.

To my way of thinking, this is an old-school enterprise with this one. It’s a theatrical potentially in both the US and Canada, primarily. And I’ll be looking to cast it from both countries. This is not a mini budget, compared to the big stuff, which is the only stuff that manages to get through the filter these days with studios. There’s a fairly demanding number of people in the cast and it’s a location shoot because it requires a small airport or an airfield, which are not generally around Vancouver. We don’t know exactly where we’ll go to shoot it.

Have you noticed any changes over the past few years in terms of women working in professional capacities in filmmaking?

Only in the amount of talk about it. Only in the amount of attention being paid to it. Not practically on the ground to any degree that indicates a great deal has changed. I’m assuming, I’m hoping, that the amount of discussion and conversation and attention being paid to the issue is going to create that change, but it’s slow in coming.

Every time I crew-up, I’m looking for as many women as I can, and it’s still difficult. Part of it, I think, is that the entry level positions are still dominated by men, so there isn’t the opportunity for progression.

The development side of the industry has undergone a bit of a sea change. The last show I worked on was entirely with women executives and you are often pitching to women. But in terms of production, there has not been a lot of change on set.


Do you want to submit to From Our Dark Side? Click here to review the submission guidelines and learn about what’s in it for you.

Can we support your professional development as a woman in the screen-based media industry? Or maybe you can help build WIFTV, as a volunteer or donor, and help us get the industry to gender parity? The first step is membership – learn more here.